Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Freedom to Be

My friend Paul Fitzgerald of Grace Connexion Ministries showed me a poster that he uses in one of his lectures. It was a tombstone with a place for a name. Underneath that was the simple epitaph “I survived.” When I first saw it I laughed, but then it has haunted me ever since. I will be posting some thoughts soon on the origin of our “I am nots.” I am not loveable. I am not good enough. I am not worthy, not special, not wanted. We all have them, and they debilitate us, poisoning our freedom to live life. We go into survival mode. One of my most damaging is “I am not there yet.” It is a simple statement, but it drives me, and I suspect it drives nations, corporations and denominations as well. The particular problem that “I am not there yet” creates is the inability to enjoy the moment, and that means people and Papa’s creation. That is a consequence of the enormous drive to contribute, to do more, to create. Folks who are afflicted with this particular problem get an awful lot done. They are typically over-achievers. And we typically miss out on our daughter’s smile, the simple joy of being in the room with friends, or the exquisite colors of a bird. Even when we take a break, we can’t take a break.

Last week I got a call from a older man who had been ‘asked to leave’ the church where he served as a pastor. He was devastated. He had no idea what he would do. ‘Ministry’ was his life. After I listened for a while to his hurt and to his fear, I told him, “Jesus loves you an awful lot.” He asked, “what do you mean?” “He loves you so much as to deliver you from the machine, so that you can be free to live. If you are a pastor, no one can keep you from caring about people. You don’t need to be in a institution to do that. All you need is people. So now you are free to get to know people. And you can do that anywhere, beginning with your own family.”

“I am not there yet” usually means that we buy into someone’s definition of where ‘there’ is, and some notion of how to get there, and we lose ourselves in the diligent process of being faithful. So much so that we don’t even know who we really are. Our very identity, our sense of who we are becomes confused with our role in ‘getting there.’ My pastor friend got delivered from being in ‘ministry.’ Or perhaps I should say he got delivered from someone’s or some group’s definition of ‘ministry.’ It was a surgical cut that hurts like hell, but it was designed with love for liberation.

Where is ‘there”? All our “I am nots” have their origin in the whisper of the father of lies. They certainly are confirmed by life experiences, by childhood wounds, by financial loss, betrayal, tragedy, and disappointments. There is evidence for the whisper, or so it would seem. But given the evidence, what will it take to get there? What will it take to feel worthy? What will it take to feel important, or wanted, or special or loved? These are the better questions. Who told us what ‘special’ is and why did we believe them? Who defined ‘there’ for me, and why does their opinion matter so much? What is the origin of ‘important’ or ‘worthy’? What constitutes being ‘wanted’ or ‘loved?’ Who or what has defined these quite fundamental ideas for us?

Toward the end of The Shack there is conversation between Mack and Jesus that is very relevant here.

‘Jesus?’ he whispered, as his voice choked. ‘I feel so lost.’

A hand reached out and squeezed his, and didn’t let go. ‘I know, Mack. But it’s not true. I am with you and I’m not lost. I’m sorry it feels that way, but hear me clearly. You are not lost.’” 114

I think Jesus’ own “I Am” is the answer to all of our “I am nots.”

I Am there, and you are in me. So you are there too.
I Am worthy, and you are in me. So you are worthy too.
I Am loved, and you are in me. So you are loved too.
I Am important, and you are in me. So you are important too.
I Am wanted, and you are in me. So you are wanted too.

Blessed are the ones who have the freedom to be, for they shall see glory everywhere.

I just noticed a male cardinal sitting on a limb in my backyard. Blood red feathers against the backdrop of the brown hues of leafless trees. I wonder what that means?


Erik V. said...

wow Baxter, amazing! I just thought I'd stop in and say Hello! This is Erik by the way from BreakThrough. I really missed you in BT2 and I know everyone else did too! I am in the process of finishing you book "The Great Dance" and it has been a great read. It has opened my eyes even more. Thank you for being real, and being who you are. I love it!

Unknown said...

I found all this incredibly encouraging having had such intimations of my negativities as described (recently) and therefore with those things which hold us back. Where these negativities come from I would not be too/so sure, but anything to live life in its fullness (and therefore to rid oneself of their awful influence) and the living in the 'Sacrament of the present moment', as described by Martin Freazell, on Grace Communion, is worth it. It is also to do with the dimension of time and the fact that the older we are, the more we want to embrace life, because the enjoyment of life is spoilt if all we think about as oldies is more for times past - the greater part of our life - than of the future. In other words we can feel degraded and worthless - the telling of lies to oursleves, as we get older. Also, it can be said of 'difficult', thus negative people, 'don't be hard on yourself' , and what they could be saying is accept the positivities of Jesus in the affirmations posted above, by CBK.

Bones said...

I appreciate the affirmation that you've shared here, Baxter! It's touching me deeply in a place that feels freshly wounded, in a way that is similar to the experience of the older pastor that you described. Although in our experience we weren't cut loose by others from what we had been giving ourselves to in ministry, still the choices that we've made in order to care for elderly parents have ripped us out of the soil of many lives with whom we were vitally connected, and after 16 years we're not thrust down in a spot where we feel rootless and disconnected. I just returned yesterday from overseas, where I've been setting our affairs there in order, not knowing if or when we'll be going back. Like Mack, "I feel so lost!" But as you so graciously reminded us, that isn't true... it may feel like it, but I'm not lost in Jesus, and I am in Jesus!

I'm far from healed from the ache that fills my soul, but I'm not enslaved to it either! Thank you for the reminder!

Unknown said...

Hi baxter.
Your writtings always encourage me,and unfortunately I live alot more with the I am nots,howver more often because of you,and Paul and Wayne Jacobenson,I am tapping into that river of life more often,than befor that tells me I am.Thanks

Jerome Ellard said...

Beautiful, Baxter. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Thank you Baxter
As always thought provoking!

I far too often slumber in the malaise of my own “what if and I must be”, a suffering mind block, a condition that clouds my thinking, when I try to soothe my own wounds, rather then enjoying the cradled healing loving embrace of Papa. The lie is that in my unbelief I think I am not who Papa says I am and therefore do not have what he says I have, FREEDOM!!! jg

Anonymous said...

The male cardinal you were looking at. Your readers saw it, and it would interesting to see a composite of what everyone saw. Don't we know it would be beautiful. With your words you painted a picture of that bird into our minds. Or did our Father do that?

Unknown said...

It's been a year since we first heard this message, and we haven't been the same. Thanks Baxter for sharing life! Bill Lindeman

Robin said...

Yes, it's very interesting that people try their whole lives to 'live up to' some level of importance or seek endlessly the approval of someone important. The problem behind that is, we are the ones designating who/what is and who/what is not important; what one person deems important another does not. My father's approval is important to me, not to you.

People are continuously grasping, never achieving, because we seek what isn't there. No one and no thing is truly, intrinsically important, yet that is the one thing we seek: recognition from one who is intrinsically important. And of that, there is only One, God Himself.

I think when people realize it's God they are looking for, then the 10th commandment will cease being our driving force behind everything. We will finally have "enough" because we will have "everything."

C. Baxter Kruger, Ph.D. said...

Thanks Erik, Glad to know you are doing well. Keep reading.

And thanks to all of you for your comments. Very encouraging.

Greg Denholm said...

I agree Baxter - this is a crucially important message that so many miss. I can think of people who need to receive it but whose wounded hearts are protected by a fortress of pride that stops them from receiving the love that would heal them.

I do, however, think it's important to note that within the context of this love, God does want to develop us in character. Objectively, God has saved us and reconciled us to himself - a pure gift; it has all been done for us. But in the subjective context of our daily existence, we are on a journey into the full measure of that objective reality - a journey into Christlikeness.

It follows, then, that there is a way of thinking "I'm not there yet" which has nothing to do with low self-esteem; it has to do with honest self-appraisal in the context of God's unfolding purpose for our lives - an expression of our freedom in Him, not a religious obligation. We mustn't presume that someone who says "I'm not there yet" doesn't know the full extent of God's goodness. In fact, they might know it better than we do.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure it works different for each of us, but for me there is no room for; "Becoming more like Jesus," as I hear so much in my church history. If what is meant by becoming more like him is getting to know him more, well I can go along with that.

For me personally understanding the gospel as presented by Perechoresis takes care of becoming more like him.

Forgive me please, if these words sounds harsh because I don't mean them to.
Sincerey, Ron.

The Pondering Pilgrim said...

You make a good point, Ron - sensitively expressed. In my observation, "becoming more like Jesus" is often presented as something we should strive for, but I think it is better presented as an unconscious by-product of knowing Jesus (which itself is the result of our being known by him - something that he has initiated, not us).

For me, this realisation has been enormously liberating because it means I simply need to abide in him. But I have discovered through experience that this requires my active participation, as difficult as that is sometimes; an attitude of passivity based on the fact that he's "done it all for me" probably means I'm not really abiding.

If I abide, he will take care of making me more like him. But I MUST abide because he won't force himself upon me.

Anonymous said...

Seems the "abiding in him," comes from realizing what he has done for us. Just last evening at the baptist church Wednesday night bible study the emphasis was on what we do, not what he has done. For me the main point of the gospel is what he has done. But it's easy for us to make it what we do. I'm not saying you're saying this Greg I'm only saying this is a problem in christianity.

Anonymous said...

I am really enjoying the give and take here. Many good points have been brought up.

One I would like to add is that my denomination once taught that we are here to build holy righteousness character. But in reality all that I proved in trying to do this was that I am a character!

So much for my works, anyway. But Paul gives us the vision of how transformation comes. It is all through God:

2 Corinthians 3:15-18--Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (NIV)

All the best!

J. Richard Parker

Anonymous said...

"ever increasing glory." That's an interesting thought. Do we assume he means getting to know him better?

Anonymous said...

Hi Ron,
And, maybe, getting to know ourselves better... more intimately and openly -- WANTING our deepest selves and accepting our Self. (Based on the thought, 'Jesus is in me, I am in Jesus' -- Glory in Us; We are in Glory...) Imagine the stunning nature of 'ever increasing glory' in Persons who are becoming more & more fully alive...

Great Googly Moogly! said...

As I read the Scripture, it seems that the over-arching "ethic" that we are called to obey is this: be who you are. All the imperatives of the NT (and I would argue, the OT as well) are based on the indicative of who God is (F-S-S), what He has accomplished in and for us and therefore, who we are in Him. The doing is always connected with our being such that for us to "obey" Christ is simply (though not always so simple) to be who we are as Children of God in Christ who have actually been transformed out of "death" and into "life"...the Life that is in Christ.

The idea that we are "new creations" in Christ refers, in my opinion, to the reality that we have been united to Jesus Christ who is the True Man (the only authentic human being to ever live) such that we are now (as we've never been before) truly authentic human beings ourselves. And because of this, by the ministry of the Spirit in us as He continues to form Christ in us, our "obedience" is simply to live out the reality of who we are as true human beings in Christ. Our calling is not "to do" anything, per say, but to simply be, to be who we are in Him!

I agree with Phillip Hughes' thesis in his magnum opus, "The True Image: The Origin and Destiny of Man in Christ" that because our destiny as human beings tied to and is fulfilled in Christ Himself, we are only truly and fully human by connection with Him because He is the True Man. Christ came to bring us into the realization of God's plan and purpose for us through His vicarious humanity.

Therefore, as Ron suggests, our goal is to continue to learn Christ (who He is and what He has accomplished) so that we learn who we are in Him. As we grow in our understanding of Christ and who we are in Him, then our lives will manifest this reality.

Being not doing is the answer for how we are to live our lives. And we can only be who we are as we learn who we are.

This is how I understand the idea of the Freedom to Be....

Nice thoughts everyone!


Boyd Merriman said...

As usual, Fantastic! We are blessed this weekend to have him here at Virginia Beach, VA! He spoke Saturday afternoon, picking up after hearing Paul Young (The Shack) and took what he spoke on and continued The Shack theme with our "Am Nots" ideas. We tend to live in that shack and in our "not" lives. Thank you for this written and now in person, message. Baxter went over this same topic. Thanks and God blessed,


The Pondering Pilgrim said...

"The mythology of the fallen mind"...

I wonder how close this takes us to "the myth of the fallen mind?"

Anonymous said...

What do you mean Greg, 'myth of the fallen mind?'

Anonymous said...

Forgot to sign my name on the above. Someone tell this old brain damaged guy what Greg means by, "myth of the fallen mind."

The Pondering Pilgrim said...

I'm probably the person most suited to help you, Ron.

In Baxter's latest blog ("Freedom to Be"), he refers to "the mythology of the fallen mind". Does he mean that there is no such thing as the sinful (a.k.a. fallen) nature? Is he referring to our impaired capacity to know God? Or perhaps he means both or neither of these?

I want to know whether he is saying there is no such thing as the sinful nature (the inner part of our being that has a propensity to harbour unGodliness, and from which our unGodly words and deeds emanate). I hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Hey Greg. I just reread Baxter's last blog, 'Freedom to Be' and didn't find the statement, 'mythology of the fallen mind.' Was it possibly another blog?

But wherever it is, I would assume he is speaking of our fallen state which scripture speaks of.


ShackBibleGuy said...

Baxter uses such language frequently, and what he means is that the fallen mind creates myths about God. He is not saying that the fallen mind is not real.

Anybody disagree?

Anonymous said...

I see it now. Sorry for my slowness. Ron


Richard quoted II Cor:

...And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (NIV)

Another Ron (I think it's another) teaches that what is revealed in the Trinity is the eternal love relationship with in the Trinity between the members. The love could not be eternally contained, it had to be spread abroad. This was His purpose in creation, to spread his love. Our everlasting purpose is to receive and return and spread love. Jesus endured all of the pain and the hardship and shame of His incarnation and judgement, because of His love for the Father and His love for us. Only love could motivate Him to the faithfulness required to fulfill His mission. If only love could motivate Him to his end, how could we do any differently. Our teacher's point is, we do what we love to do, just as our Creator does what He loves to do. In this temporal realm as well, the knowledge of good and evil can not motivate us to do good. The law can only show us "not there yet".
"Oh Father, not there yet, let me get to work on that."
Oops! won't work. If I love that girly magazine, willpower and knowing it's wrong ain't gonna keep me away.
"Oh Father, not there yet, show me again, Jesus. What is Jesus like? Did He reeeally love me that much? What else does He love? No, I want to know. Jesus, you love me so much even though I'm covered in...never mind. Tell me that story again?"
As we do abide in Him and His word, He begins to conform us and our love with Him. The answer to sin is not less sin but more Jesus. The source of righteousness is not doing good, but Jesus.

Does this make sense?

Your Brother

PS This is pretty new to me, but it is at least lightening the load. I'm not feeding at the law trough every 10 minutes.
Maybe the Lord isn't dismayed that I've failed. Maybe there is a purpose to my life going forward after all (mid-lifer).

Pastor Paul said...

This is one of most beautiful posts Baxter has written. I love the statement from Mr. Douglas' comment. " Not less sin, but more Jesus !" How true.

Jesus has dealt with the sin issue once for all. Jesus has taken away our sines. In Jesus there is NO sin. (IJn.3:5).

Yes, less sin is nice, but more Jesus is nicer.

Paul Kurts

Anonymous said...

Duane, I think you are largely correct. God gave Israel the law to teach us our need for Jesus, because we cannot keep the law. Since Jesus came, the Father has handed judgment (or 'crisis' as Baxter has pointed out in another blog) over to the Son, who says: "I've borne the sin of the world, come to me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest." Jesus came not to judge the world, but to offer life.

So, following Jesus is not about 'sin management', as the psychologist David Benner puts it. It's about surrendering to the love of God. More Jesus, as you put it Duane.

Doesn't mean we give up on seeking God to weed out specific sins in our lives. Romans 6 makes that clear - grace isn't embraced so that we can just go on merrily sinning. But we do see sins as the result of the distorted view of God and ourselves with which we were born and which the fallen world impresses upon us. Sin is like the ultimate addiction - a coping mechanism that we have employed since childhood to deal with the lack of love and all the rejection that even the best of human parents introduce into our lives.

"More of Jesus" will involve more of Him going back with us into those wounds and healing them. It will involve taking Jesus and the Spirit back into our past and reclaiming love and grace and acceptance for our wounded 'inner child'. Then we can make a break from so many of the sins that 'so easily beset us' (Hebrews 12). Not because we are able to choose to obey a law, but because we have relearned how to live, with THE Father now fathering us and Jesus mentoring us.
And if/when we slip up or relapse, we always have the Advocate pleading our case and saying "he's not to be judged by the law". And so we know that God always embraces us, even when our behaviour is awful and displeasing to Him. For in His love, He knows us as we are and is determined to continue to heal and redeem us.

Warren, Sydney

Anonymous said...
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Janice said...

Thank you so much for this post. It brought tears of great joy! I'm going to print it out and read it over and over until it completely demolishes those "I'm not" thoughts.